Enhancing Student Engagement in Large, Non-Disciplinary First Year Survey Courses

Annabelle Baldwin
Monash University

Ernest Koh
Monash University

Large first year survey units pose unique challenges to both teachers and learners. Survey units are designed to deliver non-disciplinary specific knowledge about a given subject to a wide audience of learners. However, first year students in these units often find that they are unable to identify the architecture of such units, and are hence uncertain of what they need to take from the course. Employing a mix of qualitative and quantitative data, this article highlights the unique challenges of teaching large survey courses, identifies the causes of anxiety and disengagement amongst learners in such units, and reports on a range of innovative practices that were designed to assuage apprehension and engage first years enrolled in survey courses. It demonstrates how integrating assessment techniques that provide developmental and skills-based feedback, tasks that signpost their performance, and encouraging students to move beyond a surface learning approach can enhance the engagement of the students across large first year survey courses towards the unit material.

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